World-ending fungus infections have been a popular trope in science fiction, finding itself in popular titles such as The Last of Us. However, the thought of a cataclysmic fungal infection has remained strictly fictional until recently. While some fungi can root themselves in humans, they cannot survive and grow inside a healthy human body. This is because humans do not provide the optimal environment for fungal growth, as fungi typically require a much cooler temperature and cannot withstand our internal body heat. While some exceptions exist, such as in individuals with weakened immune systems, the human body has remained inhospitable to most fungi.
Two days ago, that all changed when a man from India contracted a deadly plant fungus for the first time in human history. This mycologist, who had no previous health conditions that could’ve put him at risk, came to the hospital with hoarseness of voice, difficulty swallowing, a sore throat, and fatigue that had lasted for the past three months. CT scans showed a paratracheal abscess in his neck, pockets of pus that can block airways and lead to deadly infection if not caught quickly enough. After removing all the discharge, the man was diagnosed with Chondrostereum purpureum, a fatal disease known to attack roses.
This unprecedented case raises grave concerns about fungal infection for everyone worldwide. The rising temperatures of the world have caused activation in the fungus’ genes resulting in fast mutation and evolution. As these fungi are forced to survive higher and higher heat, they are learning to overcome our body’s primary defense against them. The consequences of global warming are being seen even faster than we expected, and with this case, we may have opened the door to a deadly Pandora’s Box of fungal infection.
Daniel Kim (April 2023)